The Sussex Weald: Autumn sunset at Cowdray Park

A new blog post series of single images, maybe, to counteract the decline of Twitter and the TikTok-isation of Instagram?

This image was taken at Cowdray Park near Midhurst on Monday 14th November. It was a stunning autumn evening, with trees in shades of gold, yellow and orange all the way to the sumptuous Downs.

Chanctonbury to Cissbury in the South Downs

On a warm and clear day in October I walked between two of Sussex’s most famous and well-loved hillforts: Chanctonbury Ring and Cissbury Ring. This is a walk that you can access by public transport, with buses to Washington and then from Findon off the A24.

I didn’t know much about Iron Age hillforts until I worked in the South Downs National Park and had the chance to learn from people working at the National Trust and other heritage experts. Still, my knowledge is not strong on this subject.

It is amazing to think that these hilltops might once have held the equivalent of small villages, using the hilltops to monitor the movement of people across land in the north, and at sea in the south.

The walk winds its way up through woodland to Washington chalk pits, an old chalk quarry that’s now habitat for butterflies and orchids. Here you get good views north to the Greensand Hills where Leith Hill, the highest point in SE England can be spotted (out of shot on the right hand side in the north).

It wouldn’t be a walk for me without the sighting of something fungal. The cow pats in a field approaching Cissbury Ring contained some inkcaps which may be the uncommon snowy inkcap. In the distance the ridge of the Downs bowls away west towards Amberley and the Arun Valley.

Immediately upon ascending the Downs, you can get good views south to Cissbury Ring, a hillfort much, much bigger than Chanctonbury Ring. In the distance are views of the south coast and, in this image, the Rampion windfarm. It’s named after ‘the pride of Sussex’, round-headed rampion, a flower more common in the South Downs.

You approach Chanctonbury Ring on the South Downs Way. I like this subtle stretch of the trail, with the beech trees that cover the ring giving a parkland feel.

In the distance beyond Chanctonbury Ring are the aerial towers of Truleigh Hill, home to the Youth Hostel and secret bunkers (apparently).

I first heard of Chanctonbury Ring when reading Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways. There are stories of the ring being ‘haunted’, not just by nature writers. It’s a welcome place to sit and rest, taking in the views under the fair shade of the beech trees. You can understand why this smaller hillfort would be such a good location to observe the comings and goings in the surrounding landscape.

Continuing east on the South Downs Way, views of Devil’s Dyke begin to open out. During the walk the site was visible through the glinting of the sun hitting car windows in the National Trust car park!

Devil’s Dyke (what is one of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring parts of the Downs) can be seen in the mid-left/centre of the image where the dark lump of woodland sits atop the ridge. Truleigh Hill is again visible with the masts.

Turning back to look over your shoulder gives a nice view of Chanctonbury Ring. I think the lump of hills in the right hand side of the image is Black Down, the highest point in the South Downs National Park, near Haslemere in Surrey.

Leaving the site of Chanctonbury Ring gives the impression of walking straight into the sea.

There’s a southern turning to take towards Cissbury Ring and off the South Downs Way. The track leads alongside arable fields and shooting cover. In this view the distant shape of the Isle of Wight is visible in the top right.

The resplendent South Downs set against a ribbon of blue sea and cloud-scattered sky.

Approaching views of Cissbury Ring.

Cissbury Ring is owned by the National Trust, thank god.

On Cissbury Ring there are better views of Brighton and the Seven Sisters cliffs reaching round to Eastbourne. This was a good way to observe the landing of invading armies but probably also to monitor trade.

Out at sea you can get closer views of the white turbines of the windfarm. The development required cables to be dug into the landscape, with a long strip having to be cut through the Downs to reach the electricity terminal. One person I know who lives in Hove said they were comforted by the red flashing lights on the horizon at night.

This sycamore tree got quite a lot of Instagram interest during lockdown, when a local person posted stunning phone pics of the sunsets up here. This is looking towards the Findon Valley.

Looking back where we’d travelled from, Chantoncbury Ring’s mini-hillfort can be seen as a beech clump on the hill, but much smaller now.

To the west, if you have binoculars, you can see the City of Portsmouth outlined on the horizon.

A last look across the Findon Valley, west into the Downs. The ramparts of the hillfort are in the image’s foreground.

Thanks for reading.

Further reading: The South Downs

Enjoyed what you saw here? If so, please support my work: https://ko-fi.com/djgwild

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A walk around a wet woodland reserve where the river ran free of its banks, merging among poplars like something from prehistory (i.e. no Internet).

Early spider orchids ๐Ÿ•ท๏ธ

Chalk grassland is an incredible habitat. It’s extremely rich in plants and animals, with high cultural value from the historical assosciations with human activity over at least 8000 years. In the UK it defines the downlands of Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset and Wessex. Sounds like an episode of The Last Kingdom. Thankfully I was spared the sword (this time).

In early May I was fortunate enough to visit a chalk grassland site near Brighton with two people who knew the landscape extremely well. I had been invited to visit this area to help find early spider orchids 3 years ago but the pandemic got in the way of travelling there.

A landscape raked by stone, bone and iron

I visited on a sunny day in what was a very dry spring indeed (I hate how dry winter 2021/spring 2022 have been). We had heard of hundreds of orchids in recent weeks at the site but only found 3. It was baffling. Perhaps we were just too late and the dry conditions had brought an end to their season earlier than expected.

These orchids get their names from the fact their flower looks like a spider. You may be familiar with the names of bee, fly, man, lady, lizard and monkey orchids also.

They are truly beautiful.

During the survey a woman came over to talk about orchids. Her knowledge was incredible, with known locations across Kent and Sussex. She travelled by train from her home in north London.

She showed us a gentian, a type she said was only found at this location in the UK.

Perhaps the most abundant plant was milkwort, appearing in white, pink and blue.

This is some kind of daisy (probably hawkbit) with petals that look like hands shielding something.

There were a fair number of small beetles in the grasslands, including this click beetle (I think).

A nice surprise was finding a small blue, one of the rarest butterflies in the UK. This is a very small blue, though most of them in Britain are small anyway. They’re pretty much tied to chalk grasslands from what I know.

Thanks to Phillippa, Jan, James and Monica.

And thanks for reading.

More macro

The South Downs

Autumn 2021 blog update

I thought it would be worth sharing an update on where things are with this blog. Last year was a hugely productive one for my blog due to spending so much time at home because of Covid-19 restrictions. At times I was posting three times a week with stuff I would see as good quality.

Now that things have changed I’ve lost that writing time. Things have gone back to where they were probably in 2019. That said, my blog has continued to grow in reach in 2021, especially it seems when people are interested in fungi in the autumn months. October’s views on here have been possibly the busiest month ever for visitors.

In January of this year I began recordings for my Unlocking Landscapes podcast. It was very easy to do because people had time to spend on Zoom due to the stay-at-home orders. Now that there is less of that, I don’t have the time to do them monthly, which has proven a big challenge. That said, I do have two more episodes to publish, hopefully this year, and some episodes agreed with some really cool people, including an author, shepherdess, eco-therapist and a nature writer.

I do hope to add more quality episodes over the years and it may just end up being seasonal, with the episodes maybe a bit longer. I don’t get any income for the podcast and the people appearing on it are doing so out of generosity and a desire to share ideas. Thank you to everyone who has been involved, I’ve loved it so far. The upcoming episodes are part two of the Hungary-Romania trip with Eddie Chapman, and a spring birdsong walk in the Sussex Weald that I recorded in May.

In book news, I have been providing content for other people’s books! Chris Schuler’s The Wood That Built London has just been published with some of my photos in the glossy inner-pages (see image above). It’s an absolute joy to be tied to this incredible book, which has levels of detail about south London’s ancient woodlands which have never before been amalgamated and shared. You can see more here. I’ve also (probably) had some photos published in Tiffany Francis-Baker’s book about Dark Night Skies.

In spring London Wildlife Trust will be publishing a book about nature in London which includes a chapter I wrote about woodlands, with more photographs included. This is another big personal thing for me and I am so honoured to have been asked to support the project. I will post more about it when the book arrives.

In my own personal self-publishing world I have plans to release a third poetry booklet in early 2022 called Fool’s Wood. I have also been trying to write a book for the past 10 years about my experiences of volunteering and what I learned about nature and our relationships to it. That is proving very difficult to get anywhere with, but I hope to make some progress over the winter months. I am not producing any of these with an aim of being published in the mainstream, more for my personal sanity, and as ebooks. If anyone has advice about producing and publishing ebooks, please help me!

The Town Clerk’s Office, Midhurst (c1500s)

As photography projects go I’ve been gathering images of timber-framed cottages and other buildings for an Instagram account @SussexTimbers. I’m still looking for the best format to share these images and to talk about their historical significance, which Instagram is not quite. I will probably build a section on this website next year to showcase them. Might even make some postcards!

What I’ve been reading: this year has been dominated by Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad and Life and Fate. I have studied Russian cinema and am something of a Russophile, but there is only so much you can take of 20th century Russian history. Tread carefully. I’ve recently finished Wanderland by Jini Reddy, I Belong Here by Anita Sethi, some of the novels by Sarah Moss (Ghost Wall and Cold Earth), and at the moment I’m enjoying Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard. Reddy and Sethi’s books are a must read for people who are advocates (or not) of countryside access. Especially those who adamantly and aggressively announce that ‘the countryside is for everyone’ as a reposte to the lived-experience of Black people and people of colour. It’s not, and racism prohibits people from feeling welcome in certain places. Finding the Mother Tree is essential reading for those who want to understand more about how trees are interconnected and the role fungi play in healthy, happy woodlands. I still haven’t read the Merlin Sheldrake book.

What I’m listening to: the new album by The War on Drugs is one I have been waiting a long time for. Change is my favourite song so far (that piano…):

The podcasts I regularly listen to are Welcome to Mushroom Hour and the Guardian Football Weekly.

I want to give a shout out to my dad who regularly reads this blog and has, alongside my mum, been a massive support to me for many years (obviously). Dad has been under the weather recently and unable to get out as much as he would like to, so hopefully dad what you can continue to see here is a bit of a sense of the outdoors. We’ll get you back out there again soon.

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, sending in comments on here as well as on Twitter. I love to receive your comments, which are almost 100% positive, though I don’t block criticism (as long as it’s not inappropriate).

Wishing you a pleasant winter ahead with friends, family, wildlife and pets.

Daniel

Postcard from the Dales

Valley of the Swale, the fastest river in England

Hi everyone,

No usual blogs from me this week as I’m away in the Yorkshire Dales.

It’s been very hot here which makes walking more difficult (for me). The evening light has been absolutely sensational, though.

Old mining buildings near Keld/Muker

Walked the Muker-Keld loop incorporating the Pennine Way in part.

It’s such an incredibly rich landscape of natural and cultural history. I intend to put together a longer post about the walk in the weeks ahead.

The hay barns in Swaledale are some of my favourite features of this wonderful place. I have a massive framed picture of one in my house.

This one in fact. The meadows here had just been cut. There was a huge hedgehog, oystercatchers and swallows foraging in the tractor’s wake.

Ok, time to coat myself in Factor 50 and head out again.

Thanks for reading.

#FungiFriday: not just lichen it, lovin’ it!

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Fungi Friday: 31st January 2020

Anyone who works full time and is trying to keep weekly photographic habits alive will know the challenge that is January. Lunch breaks (if they continue after Bre*it) are the saving grace. This week I got out a couple of times and rescued my pseudo-Fungi Friday. Why pseudo? Because lichens are a mixture of organisms fused together through the evolutionary benefits of their respective differences. As Britain enters the transition phase of leaving the European Union, what better example can you find for the prosperity of working closely together. Algae, cyanobacteria, fungi, together they become so much more than the sum of their parts. Together they created the first soils from seemingly indestructible rocks.

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The beautiful diversity of life is what makes our world unique, it’s also what makes it live. As we continue to wreck biodiverse landscapes and our ways of farming, building and emitting eradicates species on a scale only seen five times previously in the 4billion years Earth has been a thing, we can’t forget that. Thankfully, lots of people haven’t. Lots of them will be tomorrow’s policymakers and, living with the anxiety of the planet’s poor health, will bring much-needed change.

This attempt to photograph fungi all year round is a silly mission but it has challenged me. In trying to find something to photograph, it’s taken me to read more on the diversity of fungal life that exists in the absence of typical mushrooms. One week I may have to post a photo of the black mould a former landlord is blaming me for. It has also taught me that most of my photography is in fact built around dead stuff. This doesn’t half make you look odd in the real world.

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Just like the march of unsustainable consumer-based economies, we should be mindful of the spread ofย Xanthoria parietina, a pollution-tolerant species seen here in bright yellow making its way across the lichen community.

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Lichens are good indicators of air quality, due to their intolerance of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. These chemicals are produced through emissions from pollution caused by car engines and from farming chemicals respectively. My studio this week is an abandoned poplar plantation along the river Rother in West Sussex surrounded by arable farming. If you look at the uppermost branches in the image above, you can see the spread ofย Xanthoriaย in the golden glow it creates.

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Here it is once more, spreading across more species of lichen on a fallen poplar.

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Lichen has saved my photographic January. Whether you use your phone or anything else, I know I’m not the only one.

I’m not just lichen it, I’m lovin’ it!

Fungal decisions can affect climate

Ash trees recovering from ash dieback in Norfolk

More fungi

The Peak District: struggling through the mist on Kinder Scout

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Edale, The Peak District National Park, September 2019

View my route for this walk on View Ranger

In September I visited the Peak District for the first time. I was heading up north to visit family and wanted to check whether an old friend’s claim to being a ‘northerner’ was accurate. He’s from Chesterfield and has accompanied me on several walks shown on this blog. Turns out that as a native of Chesterfield he might actually be a Midlander, anyway, nevermind that and apologies for any offence caused.

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The walk was 12 miles in length and a circular from the YHA in Edale. It’s a fantastic place to stay with really nice staff. The YHA straddles the slopes of the Edale valley. I said to the man working at the YHA that the valley took me completely by surprise when arriving, it comes out of nowhere. He said that despite visiting it every day it did the same to him each time.

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My aim was to get up onto the Kinder Scout plateau, a place famed for the mass trespass that took place 1932. Our public access to the countryside is a precious thing. It’s under attack from some landowners who don’t want members of the public walking across their land, by footpaths being forgotten and going un-walked, but it would have been even worse were it not for the interventions of a group of ‘young communists from Sheffield’ in the 20th century. It is said that their intervention led to the National Parks Act of 1949.

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Edale is nestled in amongst the woody riverine margins of Grinds Brook that runs down into the River Noe.

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The Peak District is a rural landscape of grazing land and heather moorland. I’m not defending grouse shooting here, but National Parks in the UK are designated as cultural landscapes. Our ‘wildernesses’ are not devoid of people. It was the Industrial Revolution that made the Peak District what it is today above its bedrock. In the UK people have to be part of the landscape for its protection to be ensured.

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Like many areas of hilly heather moorland, rowans are a common occurrence and point to its other common name of mountain ash. In September they are possibly at their most alluring with their masses of bright red berries earmarked for the tummies of redwings and blackbirds.

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This is a view up Grindsbrook. I have to admit, being out of (proper) hillwalking fitness this was a challenge. The track becomes bouldery, not helped by the heavy rain that arrived as I began. It being a Sunday morning, it created a bottleneck of walkers struggling up onto the top of Kinder Scout. After this photo I put my camera away and focused on the ascent.

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The rain was so bad up on Kinder Scout that I only took photos of the trackway heading north-west rather than the views into the Edale valley, and I have a waterproof camera! The rain and cloud had swallowed the views anyway.

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When the mist began to blow away, it created mysterious ranges of exposed gritstone and Sunday ramblers.

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Some of the rock formations were like ancient stone sculptures.

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The clearing mist gave stunning views into the gulleys and passes of the Peaks.

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The walking atop Kinder Scout is tough. It’s a labyrinth of peatlands and bog. The mist closed everything in and gave the sense of moving through endless corridors of black soil. Fun is not quite the word to describe it.

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As you can see, the path was difficult to keep. You need a compass and a map to be up here, View Ranger was very helpful in give a sense of my proximity to the general route. But mobile phone GPS is not reliable in these places and you need to know where you’re going.

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The sun slipped through for a minute and lit these totemic outcrops.

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Reaching Kinder Downfall was a relief. The sun broke through and blue sky appeared. The wind was so strong that it blew the water back up the fall. Kinder Scout is a Norse name, likely named by the Viking settlers present in Britain between the late 700-900s. I love this fact about Britain. When you look back at British history you fail to find a mono-ethnic, English culture.

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The warm sun here helped to dry out my coat and trousers (which I was still wearing of course) and lit the rock formations. As if clouds eventually grow heavy like stone and fall to the earth to rest like this in the hills.

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Kinder Reservoir was constructed in 1911 and can be seen in the centre of the image here.

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Can we talk about how much this boulder looks like a person in deep thought ๐Ÿค”

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The light spread across the moors, the wind blew through the grasses and clouds broke across the sky.

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There were lots of people of all ages and backgrounds rambling on this Sunday afternoon. This is the approach to Jacob’s Ladder. The deeply worn hills show the impact of many thousands of years of water running from their summits.

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A monochrome view into the Edale Valley from Jacob’s Ladder.

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I was drawn to the sight of hawthorns against the hills. They look like people. It’s a wood pasture of sorts that is found in the Yorkshire Dales below the moorland level as well. I love hawthorns.

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At Lee Farm this wooden Pooh bear was greeting walkers from its home in the wood shed.

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The rain came and passed away again on my return back to the YHA.

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What was probably the line of an old hedgerow can be seen here with two beautiful veteran trees, hawthorns sheltering sheep.

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Sadness lingers in the countryside in the shapes of our dying ash trees. In the Yorkshire Dales, in Scotland, on Dartmoor and the South Downs our ash trees are succumbing to ash dieback disease. So, too, in the Peak District. I have to photograph them as a record for what our landscapes used to look like. Hopefully more resistant genetic strains will emerge from the mist like boulders in the Peaks and rock on for millennia to come.

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What a beautiful phrase: footpath to open country. Take me there (no, really, please I’m dying it’s been 12 miles).

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Holly is another of the veteran trees you find in moorland landscapes along with hawthorn. This was a stunning tree blown east by the wind rushing through the valley.

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This is special. I noticed a massive rowan tree at the margin of field and gorseland. It is the largest rowan I have ever seen in the UK. I tweeted about it and the brilliant writer Mark Cocker asked me where it was. Mark Cocker is a ‘hero’ of mine having been inspired by his assiduous observation of rooks in Crow Country when I first became interested in the genre of ‘nature writing’. Mark said I should write something about this tree but really I only passed it. I was so tired I didn’t have the energy to pull myself up the hill (off the path!) and get a nicer photo of it with my wide angle lens. Instead, hopefully Mark will write something about it?

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The sun shone in the valley and the Peak District in all its glory was on show.

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Views across to the other side of the valley showed the various stages of the landscape. The screen and exposed geology, the rampant woodland and scrub, held off the by the farmer’s drystone walls and sheep.

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To end, the summit of Mam Tor where once an Iron Age hill fort stood. Can you imagine what it must have looked like, high up there overlooking the landscape with its wooden walls and torches burning at each corner. Next time I visit I intend to get my butt up there and see how it might have felt for our ancient ancestors, within the Countryside Code, of course.

Thanks for reading.

The Sussex Weald: Riders of the mushroom storm

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St. Leonard’s Forest, West Sussex, October 2019

After a night of stormy weather, the high winds blew through the woods and really I probably shouldn’t have been there. But October is such a special time in the woodland year that any time spent there is to be cherished.

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I walked for three or so hours in the Forest and found lots of species, masses of small brown and grey mushrooms in the leaf litter that don’t make great photos. My first find was a lovely species known as twig parachute.

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Staying in macro mode these miniscule bonnets were were growing from a bed of moss on the buttress of a tree.

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There is a small clearing I’ve recently found, well hidden from paths but obviously the secret space for other visitors as well. Here a thick humus of leaf litter and, in particular, beech nuts were creating good fruiting ground for mushrooms. This little brittlegill (I always prefer their Latin name of Russula, indicative of their redness) was one of those to benefit.

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A beech tree has dropped a large limb and deadwood fungi have begun to colonise it. This is a splitgill and only really comes to life after prolonged rain. It’s a process of re-hydration. They’re tricky to photograph but always look nice with some bokeh (the baubles of light) in the background.

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In the mosses growing in the dark and wet corners under holly trees, species like what-I-think-is curry milkcap were fruiting. This species is said to have a curry-like taste.

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St. Leonard’s Forest sits on the edge of sandy heathland soils and Wealden clay. Passing into the heathy areas which make it a ‘Forest’ (forests were open landscapes used for hunting by the aristocracy, and don’t denote woodland alone) fly agaric suddenly arrived. These shrooms are thought to have given Father Christmas his red and white outfit and provided the hallucinatory impact that gave visions of reindeer flying. I’ll write something about that one day but still, these should be treated as deadly poisonous.

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While we’re on deadly shrooms, this relative of fly agaric is panther cap. It’s definitely poisonous and is more photogenic when it’s in its bulbous stage. Again it’s common on sandy heathland soils.

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There is some constant pleasure about seeing boletes. Perhaps it’s because the cep/penny bun/porcini is the tastiest. This bolete scares me. Can you see the smiley face and squiggle of hair on the cap?

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Days of cloud were broken up by the storm and it was a relief to see some sunshine. This footbridge runs over a gill that cuts between the clay woods and the heathland on that travels further east into St. Leonard’s Forest and the wider Weald. The gill was as full as I’d seen it because of torrential downpours.

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On my way back home I found a gang of clustered bonnets on a trunk that crossed a path. It had been chainsawed in half so people can still walk through. It’s the perfect height and position for photos.

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The sun broke through the trees and lit the bonnets where they had squeezed their way out from behind the bark. To me they look a little bit like they’re hiding from something beyond the wood they cower behind.

Read more:

The Sussex Weald

My Wood-Wide-Web

 

The Sussex Weald: a mushroom cloud rests over West Sussex

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Ebernoe Common, Sussex Weald, October 2019

Last week I spent a drizzly and dark afternoon at Ebernoe Common, a National Nature Reserve managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust. It was raining not only water but mushrooms. The first signs of the good times came in the shape of a magpie inkcap. This is something I’ve only seen three times, twice at Ebernoe and once on the North Downs.

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The word magpie relates to the English phrased ‘pied’ which means black and white. This species goes into the delicious state of deliquesce (an inky kind of melting), just like its relative the shaggy inkcap. Unlike the shaggy inkcap, though, it’s toxic so don’t eat it. The thing I like about this image is the glow of green in the background gradually turning to yellow as autumn progresses. Beech usually provides this kind of backdrop.

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Porcelain fungus is a reliable species. It fruits in the same place, often en masse, each year. It is a beautiful species but the beauty, like so many things, lies underneath.

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The gloopy glimmer of the cap is photogenic but the gills of porcelain fungus are stunning.

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I use a small LED light to illuminate mushrooms in this way. I can’t tell you how much more character this can offer to photos. Actually I can: a lot more.

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Here you can see my roving light (yes, I meant this!) mixing it with some delicious bokeh in the background. Leaves and branches create lovely bokeh because of the break of light in the gaps.

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Here is one of ‘the finished images’. I like that the light circles can imitate the caps of mushrooms in photos and offer a deeper layer of resonance and reflection. Who knew.

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In photography, macro is where the fun happens. There are so many amazing things happening at our feet that our eyes are incapable of seeing without the help of magnification. If you want to have a go at macro, don’t hesitate. Just do it. I call this one ‘Climb every mountain’. The piece of deadwood does have the appearance of a peak in this light. The mushroom is like a protagonist, playing on a theme of mushrooms as individuals or sentient beings throughout human history:

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This seems to be particularly prevalent in German culture and Christmas or New Year celebrations. Christmas has evolved from Pagan traditions (Paganism was once considered any religion which was non-Christian) and the place nature has in the human imagination is pretty clear here.

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Back to life, back to reality. Honey fungus is enjoying its first boom phase and seems to be having a good year.

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There is a dead veteran beech tree at Ebernoe Common which is basically where all the mushrooms live. This wide angle image shows just how many larger species were making a home within the tree. Here you can see giant polypore (bottom left), honey fungus in the middle and Ganoderma brackets everywhere. This is a stunning tree and of the highest ecological importance because of all the species, not just fungi, it supports. All of these species are contributing to the tree’s decay and recycling into organic matter (soil).

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Not far away was a patch of hen-of-the-woods, an aggressive root-rotter (harsh). It’s said to smell like mice (more harsh).

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You can imagine how I thought someone was playing a trick when I passed this. A swing made from a beech log that was covered in porcelain fungus. It was embarrassingly hard to photograph well. Thankfully only the mushrooms were looking and they haven’t evolved to use Twitter yet.

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On my way out I spotted this slurp of fungus low on a log by the path.

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Looking closely with the macro lens it has the appearance of something you might find in a coral reef. Then that’s the beauty of woodland, it has a depth to it that you have to dive in to experience for yourself.

Thanks for reading.

 

Read more:

The Sussex Weald

My Wood-Wide-Web

 

The Howgills: walking the folds of the Cumbria fells

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Howgill Fells, Yorkshire Dales National Park, October 2019

At the beginning of October, my friend Eddie Chapman and I walked ten miles into the Howgill Fells in the Cumbrian reaches of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. You can view and download the walk on ViewRanger here.

The evening before the walk we passed the Howgills during the golden hour. A day of heavy rain dried up and the sun cast its glaze across the folds of the fells.

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Cloud hung over the Calf, the highest peak in the area and was to remain for the next day.

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The stone barns are one of the Yorkshire Dale’s most iconic features. Swaledale seems to have the greatest compliment of these beautiful structures.

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The walk began from Sedbergh, the largest settlement in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The day was sunny and surprisingly warm.

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The cloud still lingered over the highest points but the fields glowed in the morning sun.

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Looking east towards Garsdale, the Yorkshire Dales are always more wooded than I remember.

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As we made our way up into the hills through a steady ascent, the clouds settled in overhead.

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Here Eddie could still make out a small family group of stonechat in some bracken.

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Climbing higher onto Arant Haw the mist locked down, a strange and claustrophobic experience.

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Up and over our first peak, the mist began to clear only when we headed towards the Calf, the highest point of the Howgills.

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It was a great relief to have the folds of the fells reappearing from the cloud.

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Anyone who has travelled between Glasgow and Manchester will have passed the Howgills. At this junction in the fells the motorway can be heard in the distance and the small specks of vehicles passing. Above you can see what looks like the remains of an old sheep pen.

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The clouds lifted and the fells appeared. The creases speak of millenia-old waterways.

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Greater views began to appear, with Ribblesdale appearing in the distance in the shape of Whernside, one of the three peaks famed for the 30-mile day hike challenge.

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Atop the Calf, Eddie is happy to be out of the clouds for once.

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This sheep felt like it was being watched.

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The light began to dip as we headed deeper into the folding Howgills.

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Our target was Cautley Spout, the waterfall that would lead us down into the valley for a return to Sedbergh along the river Rawthey.

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The waterfall thunders down into the valley from Cautley Crag.

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The waterfall is a safehaven for trees, unlike the wider hillsides which are either unsuitable due to the boggy nature of the moorland or because of sheep grazing. Rowan, ash, holly and elm were all growing in the gully.

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The limestone surrounding the falls is covered by map lichens glowing neon.

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This area holds evidence of an Iron Age settlement. It isn’t surprising. There is protection, the river provides food and once woodland will have been more prevalent providing fuel. This landscape was potentially a site of spiritual significance. The allure is undeniable.

More photography

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